Author's Note: Spent a week on this, still trying to convince myself that I like it. I'll probably go back in a little bit and tweak the ending a smidgen. Unbetaed, so if there are any errors that's why.
About Nozomu, there is more than meets the eye with his arc in this story. Hold on tight because those answers won't come for a while, but they will come.
For Mahiru, concerning her supposed weakness, she's been brutally betrayed by one of her friends that she trusted the most. Nozomu attacked and sexually assaulted her. That is very hard to overcome, and many people, sadly, do not recover.
With that said… I'd say we're about half way through the story... maybe I'm being too ambitious. One-third of the way through, rather.
Here we go again!
Disclaimer: Crescent Moon is not mine.
Summary: Not only did he hate her for being her and being human, he hated her for making him care.
Rating: PG-13 (Rating may change in later chapters)
Chapter 10: Burst
Everything hurt. Everything hurt.
Her neck burned.
She was too tired and in too much pain to do anything about it.
Strong hands, comforting hands, safe hands moved her. She heard more yelling, more and more. So many different voices so far away.
A hand clamped over her neck.
She heard so soft and so desperate the pleas of a young man.
…Everything will be okay, Mahiru, just hold on. Please, hold on. Please…
She forced her eyes open and green ones met hers.
Don't leave me…
The only thing left was darkness.
Mahiru woke up screaming.
There happened to be a most terrible noise emanating from her room, Mahiru thought, as she woke from her fitful slumber. It was loud and chilling, and terror gripped her. She gasped for breath and she realized that sound was undoubtedly coming from her.
For a split second she wondered what could possibly make her scream this loud, then she remembered. The dream, the nightmare, the constant recurring images of That Night and how, no matter how much she was told differently, Nozomu's betrayal was all her fault. Her fault he changed, her fault he attacked, her fault he betrayed them all. The guilt was suffocating. It seeped through every molecule of her being and controlled her every movement. With no control over her body, her screams dissolved into heavy choking sobs.
Distantly, she registered the bedroom door slamming open, bouncing off the wall, and almost falling off it's hinges.
Strong, firm hands grasped her shoulders.
No, no, NO, she mentally wailed. She didn't want him to see her like this. Not like this, when she was broken and raw and so, so guilty.
Mitsuru shouted as he moved to her side, sitting on the edge of the bed, but over the thunder-like pounding of her heart she couldn't hear anything.
"What's wrong? What happened?" He wrapped his arms around her shaking form. She tried to push him away, but she was weak and tired--tired of trying to be strong, tired of being weak, tired of being alone, miserable, and guilty, and if Mitsuru could help her why shouldn't she let him? The fight seeped out of her instantly. On instinct Mahiru folded into his warm arms, resting her head on his shoulder, and burying her face in his neck. It wasn't enough, not enough to chase away her nightmare, but it was close. She snaked her arms around his body, dug her fingers into his back, and pulled him to her, and it hurt. It hurt. Her limbs burned as if on fire, and she thought that was a fine price to pay to be in his arms, because the moment his arms tightened around her thin frame, every ounce of pain melted away.
"Shhh… Mahiru. It's okay. I'm here. I'm here," Mitsuru whispered. Hot breath fanned her neck and sent chills cascading down her spine. One hand cradled her head, weaving into her hair, its thumb hypnotically moving up and down. His other hand rested at the base of her spine and the heat of it spread across her body.
Minutes passed. Eventually her sobbing subsided and reduced itself to small whimpers. Taking a steadying breath, Mahiru blinked her eyes open. She brought her hand around and gripped the front of his undershirt. She pulled on the collar as she burrowed deeper into his arms. She felt him take a deep breath and she followed along, letting the air flush out her fears.
His hand at the base of her spine moved, his fingers gripped her skin, and it was only then she realized his hand had found its way below her shirt. Not that it was a hard feat, the shirt was small and with her arms the way they were the shirt had most definitely ridden up. It was wonderful, feeling his skin on hers. His calloused hands were rough on the small of her back, and she struggled to not let that affect her. With all her best efforts, however, she barely suppressed a shiver, her breath, when released, was choppy, her back, fingers, toes tingled and she silently (so, so silently) wished that his hand would slide lower.
"It's okay," he whispered.
Mahiru suddenly launched back to reality, to why he was in her room, holding her so intimately, in the first place. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice like gravel. Her forefinger traced up and down the exposed skin of his chest.
"For what?" He murmured.
"For this… For waking you up."
"Don't be." She felt his lips brush her temple. "Want to talk about it?"
Mitsuru readjusted his body. Both his hands gripped where they rested, and the one in her hair began to massage the base of her skull. She hummed deep in her throat, and turned her head so he could have better access. He had talented hands. Her eyes drifted closed, and a sharp breath escaped through clenched teeth when Mitsuru hit a particularly sore spot. Her hands gripped him for a second, before she released her breath in a quick huff. Warm shivers traveled up and down her spine, spreading through her body, making her fingers and toes curl.
She shouldn't be enjoying this. Not when she didn't deserve it. Tears emerged from her eyes. She tried to blink them away, but they continued to fall. She watched through blurry vision as Mitsuru's tank slowly, but surely, soaked up her tears.
His fingers brushed over the scars on her neck. Her shiver this time was anything but pleasant. Bitter cold raced through her body as if she'd been doused with a bucket of ice. Her eyes widened and the feeling of needles slowly pushing their way through her skin appeared with a vengeance. Mitsuru must have felt the change in her, because he immediately began whispering in her ear, telling her that she was protected and safe, and his arms tightened around her more, if possible, as she regained her bearings.
"I'm sorry," she whispered again. Her fingers drifted down to the wet patches of his shirt.
"It's okay. It'll dry."
"No, I mean, I'm sorry he's gone," Mahiru couldn't bring herself to say his name. She felt Mitsuru stiffen. Her resolve began to crumble; if she didn't continue to speak, she may not have another chance. "It's my fault. It's my fault he's gone, and I'm so sorry."
Mitsuru pulled away, and Mahiru felt her heart break. He was angry. She could feel it rolling off of him. She closed her eyes tight and more tears fell away. She felt his hands grasp her face and when she opened her eyes she was staring into fathomless green.
"It is not your fault," he proclaimed emphatically.
She bit her lip, and her eyes focused on his collar bone, but Mitsuru would have none of it. He brushed his thumbs along her cheeks, removing her tears. He moved his head closer, forcing her to meet his gaze.
"Do you hear me? It is not you fault. It was his and his alone."
"No, you don't get it!" She said desperately. Her hands gripped his forearms--funny, how her limbs still burned. Mitsuru tried to speak, but she cut him off. "It is! If I hadn't broken up with him, if I hadn't used him, if I had just… then he wouldn't be…" She paused trying to organize her words. "He was so angry, Mitsuru. I've never seen him so angry."
His grip was soft now, almost nonexistent. She averted her eyes and brushed her tears away. When he didn't speak for a while she chanced a glance at this face. He wore the strangest expression, as if he were someplace else entirely. She couldn't quite figure it out.
"Why did you break up with him?"
Mahiru froze and felt her eyes widen like a deer caught in headlights. She didn't expect this. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, she thought cynically. She couldn't tell him! She couldn't possibly tell him that the reason she stopped her relationship with Nozomu was because of her attraction to Mitsuru. That would expose her heart too much, and she didn't think she'd be able to recover if he rejected her. His presence breathed life into her soul and soothed away her troubles. She was stronger with him. She felt alive with him, especially within the past month. The thought of it all being ripped away made her heart cave in. She frantically grasped for an answer.
"I didn't… care for him as I should have…"
Her inner voice gave a relieved sigh. Good answer.
"Because my hopes rested somewhere else," she whispered without realizing.
No, no, no, no! Are you crazy? He'll ask who!
Her fingers tightened on his arms, and she silently prayed over and over that he wouldn't ask her who she cared for.
And that was it. Thankfully.
His fingers wiped away the rest of her tears before he dropped his hands, seemingly without thought, to her hips. She followed their movement and noticed, quite horrifically, that she was completely in his lap--her legs straddling his, her hips resting on his upper thighs. She gasped once the information sunk in. Frantically she moved herself off of him and practically flew across the bed.
"Whoa! Calm down. It's okay," he grasped her flailing arms, bringing her hands together in his. "Stop apologizing and stop freaking out. You shouldn't move around too much anyway…"
He shot her a look and she fought the strong urge to apologize for apologizing. His thumbs caressed her knuckles until her whole body relaxed. She suddenly felt so tired, and her burning limbs had somehow increased in weight. She unsuccessfully stifled a yawn. Her eyelids felt heavy and she tried very hard for them not to droop. Of course, Mitsuru noticed.
"Look, you should rest, and, truth be told, I need some shut-eye, so I'm going to let you sleep. If that's alright with you. I'll be on the couch if you need me."
Through the exhaustion now controlling her body, she barely heard the words, but when they registered her eyes flew open. He was going to leave her alone? She didn't want to be alone! Not after what had happened. Tonight had brought the worst nightmare yet. Even with her exhaustion, if he left, she wouldn't sleep. Her arm shot out just in time to grab his as he turned away.
He turned back to face her, expectant.
"You can stay." What was she doing? "I'd like for you to stay."
Mitsuru stood there. His mouth hung open in surprise. Mahiru forced a slight smile.
"At least until I fall asleep." Please.
She watched his mouth snap shut, watched him swallow hard.
"Sure," his voice was thick and rough, and it made Mahiru shiver.
"Thanks," she breathed.
She watched as he climbed onto the bed, and it seemed he was determined to stay on top of the sheets. She smiled at his chivalry. As much as she wanted to have his arms wrapped around her, feel his body flush against hers, she silently agreed with him. For her, that small separation was probably was best.
She burrowed in the sheets, brought them up to her chin, and scooted herself closer to Mitsuru. They laid there for awhile enjoying the companionable silence, both of them focused on the ceiling.
Just before sleep took her, Mahiru turned towards him, her hand resting on his shoulder. He met her gaze.
"I never thanked you…" She swallowed and scooted closer to his warmth. "For saving me. If you hadn't arrived when you did, I obviously… I wouldn't be here right now. Thank you."
Silently, Mitsuru turned and wrapped his arms tightly around her blanketed frame. Before he hid his face from her, Mahiru swore his eyes looked a little wet.
Strong and determined vehemently her spoke in her ear, "I would do anything for you. All of us at the Moonshine would. Saving you was without question… It is, after all, in our job description." Mahiru gave a small laugh. "You don't have to thank me."
Mahiru smiled, reveled silently in the safety of his arms, and slept.
For the life of her, Mahiru couldn't remember what woke her up that morning. Maybe it was the bitter cold that made her hair stand on end despite being wrapped in sundry sheets, comforters, and blankets, or the loud string of curses from the living room, or the raucous banging of metal on metal, or the delicious smell of coffee wafting through the cracks in her door, or, maybe, it was the realization that she was alone in her bed.
She did remember, however, how--after having the best night of sleep she had in weeks (months, really), with Mitsuru finally in the same bed--how much it ached to wake up alone. She remembered, right before she drifted off, half-imagining how waking up in his arms would feel like. Would she wake up first and watch as he slowly came out of his slumber? Would she hear him talk in his sleep, maybe say her name passionately while in a dreamy haze? Or would he wake up first, but stay there in bead with her, holding her, shaking her gently to let her know that the day had begun? In her wildest imaginings, she woke him up by kissing him senseless, straddling him just like she did last night, but this time with purpose (in that illusion morning breath did not factor in).
Mahiru spent the first five minutes of her morning watching the snow fly past her window, small and violent in its decent to earth, mourning the empty half of her bed, and listening to Mitsuru's coarse exclamations of failure, and even less exclamations of success.
When she finally left her room, still in her pajamas (and wrapped up in comforter because it was so effing cold) , she cautiously made her way to where Mitsuru's voice carried from, and who, without a doubt, was very angry with… something.
She saw him before he saw her. He was still in his pajamas, boxer shorts and tank, with clunky, untied work boots and a gigantic winter coat, the hood occasionally falling forward as he worked on the heater. If, in fact, it was still a heater. It looked more like a gaping hole in the wall with its parts strewn about the hardwood floor.
With a growl he pushed the hood back once more before clanging his wrench against some tubing and hoping to release a washer, or nut, or at least that's what it looked like to Mahiru. She tried not to laugh. She really did! But he was trying so hard and, quite frankly, getting nowhere. Only God knew how long he'd been working on the old thing.
He growled again, and Mahiru couldn't contain her mirth. Mitsuru whipped around, glared at her, and her giggles were disguised as coughs.
"Princess," he said before returning to the hole, "the heater's broken."
"Okay…" Not counting the fact that she'd already figured out the heater wasn't working, she was thoroughly confused with how he addressed her. Princess? Princess! He hadn't called her that in, well, a month. How absurd! "Good morning to you too… soldier?"
Mitsuru looked at her, " 'Soldier'?"
" 'Princess'?" Mahiru retaliated.
His eyes narrowed. "Coffee's on the counter, and I already called in to work, told them you hurt yourself," by this point he was back to 'fixing' the heater, "Told them that you and I probably wouldn't be back 'till next week. Boss didn't take it so well, but said as long as I bring by a doctors note it would be fine. How.. How are you injuries, by the way?"
Mahiru glanced at the angry gash on her arm, then the one on her leg. The stitches made her feel like a freak home-ec project, and the staples looked like they should be in a two-by-four instead her flesh. They didn't hurt though, at least not at much as they should.
"Good, I guess."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Mitsuru said as he wrestled with some metal. "Why?"
"It's just that you're acting really weird."
Mitsuru opened his mouth to respond, probably with "I'm fine" or "Don't worry about it" or his signature "Fuck off, okay". Whatever it was it wasn't voiced because a terrible BOOM thundered through the hallway outside their door. The floor shook and Mahiru had to fight to keep her balance.
"Stay here!" Mitsuru yelled as he ran out the door, surprisingly not tripping over his laces. The door slammed, but Mahiru could still hear exclamations from the hallway, women screaming, children crying…
That was when her heart stopped working. They were here! Dawn's Venus and-and He was here! For her! And her only key to survival had just run out the door! She had to do something, anything to protect herself. Adrenaline rushed through her and she noticed that Mitsuru had dropped his wrench when he left. She ran as fast she could, discarding her giant comforter and favoring her gimp leg. Mahiru grabbed the wrench, held it like a kid at his first T-ball game, and waited. Her pulse hammered in her ear, she couldn't hear anything over it's thudding, but she watched the door carefully for any sign of movement.
What she failed to notice was the change in color and length of her hair, the sizzle of magic as the talisman she wore activated, and that her pendant was decidedly not pulsing a bright blue light as it once had when she was in danger. Nor did she see the slow, but steady, stream of water making it's way under the door, and she failed to hear the laughter of kids over the crying of others, and the splashsplashsplash of people walking though water.
The longer she waited the more coiled her stance became.
The doorknob turned and Mahiru sprang.
She noticed the rush of water first as it flowed into the apartment, then the laughter beyond the door, and the constant rush of water falling somewhere not too far away. She noticed all these things before she realized that she was, indeed, flinging herself at a disguised Mitsuru, who, to his credit, caught her hand right before the wrench made contact with his head.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I thought---"
"It's fine. We're fine. We're fine." He dropped her hand and grabbed her shoulders. "They're not here."
It took Mahiru a minute to digest his statement. She looked down the hallway to see thick fall of water that caused the flood, children splashing through the hallway and avoiding their parents haphazard attempts to bring them inside. Mahiru glanced at the floor, now covered in inches of frigid water. It rose as it covered her ankle. "They're not here?"
Mitsuru shook his head.
"Then what was--?"
If Mitsuru was a bomb, he would have detonated right then. "Fucking pipe burst! I'm gonna kill Oboro next time I see him! Giving us this dump of a place! One bedroom! Can you believe it? One fucking bedroom! For TWO people! And one bathroom! There's never enough hot water, the heater doesn't work, the couch sucks, and now the main pipe for the whole building burst!" Mitsuru flung his arms in the air. "And I have to… live with you!"
That hurt. It cut right to her heart, slammed into her chest, and knocked the wind out of her. "Ouch," she managed.
Mitsuru pointed to his angry face, not hearing her. "I am one happy camper!"
A burst of laughter traveled down the hallway.
"I'm sorry living with me has been so terrible," Mahiru said.
"What?" He genuinely looked confused. "What are you talking about?"
Before she could answer, however, the fire alarm sounded and Mahiru grimly thought that she was saved by the bell.